Debunking Science Denialism

This is an interesting study on combating misinformation, that seems so prevalent these days.

Getting accurate information across in the face of this science denialism is something of a minefield, as there is evidence that attempts to correct misinformation may backfire, further entrenching the beliefs of science deniers instead. In their paper, Schmid and Betsch present some good news and some bad: rebutting misinformation reduces the ensuing level of science denialism, but not enough to completely counter the effect of the original exposure to misinformation.

Dismayingly, exposure to the denialist arguments had an overall negative impact on attitudes and intentions, regardless of the rebuttals the participants heard. But the rebuttals did successfully mitigate this negative impact. To test the robustness of their results, Schmid and Betsch conducted five replications, testing that their results remained the same in different population groups (students compared to a national sample) and cultures (Germany and the United States). They also tested whether the same rebuttal tactics worked for climate change and whether the presentation—with the debates delivered in audio or written format—made a difference.

The results, write Schmid and Betsch, suggest that advocates can pick the strategy they’re more comfortable with. Critically, they saw no evidence of a backfire effect and, in fact, tentatively suggest the opposite—that people who were more vulnerable to the misinformation on offer were more likely to benefit from rebuttal.

Two tactics effectively limit the spread of science denialism

Written on June 30, 2019